Articles | "Balaam"

November 25, 2020

by William Heinrich

Peter, Jude, and John all mention Balaam but do it with disparaging warnings. Balaam possessed a strange mixture of vice and virtue. He would run with the hare and with the hound. He wanted to serve two masters. Second Peter 2:15 speaks to those who have forsaken the right “way” and have gone the way of Balaam who loved the wages of unrighteousness. He was a hireling prophet, the leader of those who refused to speak out or stand up (2 Peter 2:15).


          Jude speaks of the “error” of Balaam. “Woe unto them that ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” Balaam saw the sins of Israel and supposed a righteous God must curse them. He, however, knew not the power of the cross through which God saves and protects His people. He is both just and justifier of a believing sinner. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD will not impute sin (Romans 4:5-8).


          John in Revelation 2:14 mentions “the doctrine of Balaam.” This doctrine was his teaching to King Balak to corrupt the people who he could not curse. This was in the form of a stumbling block. They were to be invited to their pagan feast and to be seduced by their loose women.


          It must shock us to learn that God will employ ungodly men to carry out His will. Samson was certainly not an example to have for your children to follow. Even the high priest Caiaphas prophesied, “and this he prophesied not of himself” (John 11:49-51).


And one of them, Caiaphas, being the high priest of that year, said to them, You do not know anything at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation perish. And he did not speak this of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation…”


          Even the prophet Habakkuk found it hard to understand how God would use a nation more evil than Israel to judge Israel, defeat her and enslave her. Even here in the life of Balaam we see a donkey speaking the words put in his mouth.


          God is sovereign. The mistaken idea that God only uses good men to bring about His purposes gives an incomplete view of God and borders on heresy. As a matter of fact, Balaam the prophet prophesies an excellent summary of Israel’s entire history reaching even to the millennium. In contrast, the prophet Daniel prophesies an excellent summation of gentile history. The two men are very different, yet their prophesies are equally important.


          Balaam uttered four prophecies concerning Israel (Numbers 22-24). Prophecy is history prewritten or the mold of history. What he speaks is what God told him to speak: no more and no less. Balak, King of Moab, wanted Israel cursed, but God wanted them blessed. Each time four altars were built and offerings made. God spoke to Balaam, and He would not let him curse His people; and he did not, but he did bless them. The Lord met Balaam on the mountain and put a word in his mouth. One time he said, “How can I curse whom God has not cursed, and how can I denounce whom God has not denounced?” “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and He will not make it good?” “Behold, I have received a commandment to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” In the fourth prophecy of Balaam he speaks God’s word saying, “I see Him but not now; I behold Him but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob: a scepter shall rise out of Israel and batter the bow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”


          Perhaps you picked up this piece of paper to understand the mystery of the prophet Balaam a little better. You may well be disappointed. However, you may be understanding the sovereignty of God better. God is holy even if someone thinks to use Balaam just wasn’t the best choice. Scripture never mentions if Balaam was a holy man at an earlier time in life and became prideful of his gift or covetous like his neighbor. Does it really matter? God is in charge, and like Job, it might be best if He not rebuke us from a whirlwind for our opinions about His use of Balaam.